Maine Colonial is the guest today on Murder By Type, offering a review of an interesting book in what is an unusual and clever series.
THE ATTENBURY EMERALDS is the third in Jill Paton Walsh’s continuation of Dorothy L. Sayers’s Lord Peter Wimsey series. From her last entry, A PRESUMPTION OF DEATH, set in 1941, Walsh jumps ahead 10 years to 1951. Wimsey and Harriet Vane are still happily married and have three young sons. Bunter, Wimsey’s manservant and investigative assistant, remains on the scene, but now with his wife, Hope, and their son Peter.
The novel begins with Lord Peter and Bunter telling Harriet the story of their 1921 investigation into the disappearance of the Attenbury emeralds. Then, the current Lord Attenbury asks Lord Peter to investigate a new mystery involving the emeralds. Both mysteries are engrossing and the solution satisfying. Like any good traditional mystery, this is a “fair play” puzzle, in which the reader is given enough clues to figure out the solution to the mystery, and there is no graphic sex or violence.
Readers who are not already fans of Dorothy L. Sayers or other traditional mysteries might find this novel too talky. The plot is largely advanced though conversation and discussion; there are no chase scenes or forensic investigation. I very much enjoyed this style, but it won’t be for everyone.
Walsh portrays Wimsey, Vane, Bunter and the other characters convincingly to those who have come to know the characters through the Sayers novels. I would say that the Walsh portrayal of the Wimsey/Vane relationship is more placid and less intellectually driven and emotionally intense than in the Sayers books. To a certain extent, that could be expected in a long-married couple, though.
I wish Walsh had not jumped forward a whole 10 years between books. I would have liked to read a book about Lord Peter and Harriet around the end of the war. However, Walsh makes the 1951 setting work well. Lord Peter is now 60, and the world of an upper class with vast wealth, great estates and armies of servants is slipping away. This transition to a different way of life affects all of the characters in the book.
The book can be read as a standalone, but part of its charm is its many references to people and events from prior Sayers novels. All in all, a satisfying read for anyone who enjoys traditional mysteries.